Spend time with trees this autumn with the National Trust in Surrey and Sussex

Spend time with trees this autumn with the National Trust in Surrey and Sussex

Trees are the anchor of the natural world. Solid and dependable, yet never the same, they represent the stoic support so many have found in nature through these uncertain times.

In autumn, the changing colours of trees across Surrey and Sussex send the seasonal barometer to boiling point. Follow the way-marked routes at Winkworth Arboretum and Sheffield Park and Garden to see canopies aflame with colour, reflected in the lakes, against bright blue autumn skies.

The gentle golds and reds of autumn trees filter through our gardens, tickling the senses. Walk along paths lined with acers at Nymans and Standen, with leaves of of red, pink and orange.

Wander through wavy golden grassland at Petworth and Hatchlands and see the majestic parkland trees turn warm shades of ochre and russet.

In our orchards apple and pear trees hang low with fruit, evoking the fresh tastes of family tables gone by at Polesden Lacey and Standen.

While if it’s the open countryside you’re craving this autumn, the Golden Valley walk at the Devil’s Punch Bowl is the place for you.

Or come along to one of our top events this autumn – the Wey River Festival in Guildford – and Ignite at Polesden Lacey will be lighting up Surrey.

With so much to take in, National Trust gardeners and outdoors teams have picked their top trees to look out for this year, below.

Trees shape our favourite places. Do yourself the world of good and find more of this across Surrey and Sussex.


Winkworth Arboretum, Surrey

Winkworth is the National Trust’s only arboretum and it is famed for its autumn colour. The whole hillside at Winkworth Arboretum lights up in a kaleidoscope of colours in autumn. Acers, katsuas and maples are the stars of the show, while the liquidambar leaves turn crimson, orange and purple.

Head Gardener Graham Alderton says: “Acers and maples are the stars at Winkworth, while the liquidambar leaves turn crimson, orange and purple. But for me, you can’t do much better in autumn than the katsua tree (Cercidiphyllum japonicum). Everything about it is just fabulous. The autumn leaves, the shape of the tree and of course the burnt sugar smell from the leaves on the ground. We have a number of them at Winkworth in slightly different locations so the trees can colour some weeks apart, which extends the season”.
The Dr Fox Autumn Amble is a winding walking route that takes in 10 colour bursts of the most technicoloured corners of the arboretum at this time of year. Many of the trees at Winkworth are planted to create a technicoloured treat for the eyes at Autumn. Ember-red liquidamber trees and butter-coloured tulip trees embark on the most dramatic change. Stop to look a while and watch how the soft blue of the Atlas cedars and the aubergine purple cotinus coggygria create a true rainbow of leaves.
The arboretum’s creator, Dr Fox, used plants to paint a picture in the landscape. For the best views, seek out the viewpoints on the edge of the Magnolia Wood, the top of the azalea steps, the lakeside boathouse and the eastern meadow. To see the leaves up close visit the bowl, Badger’s bowl and sections of the waymarked blue route.

The arboretum opens daily, 10am to 5pm. Normal admission applies.

Polesden Lacey, Surrey
Polesden Lacey’s 1400 acre estate is home to 200 acres of ancient woodland, framing breath-taking views. The trees knit tunnels of yellows, browns and reds, casting an autumnal glow along the route. There are several walking trails including four waymarked routes.

The views from the South Lawn at Polesden Lacey, are particularly stunning in autumn. While in the the orchard, just beyond the formal garden, branches are laden with apples. A little known part of Polesden is the pleasure ground. With its amazing views over Ranmore Common and secluded walks through the Upper Sunken Garden or Preserve Copse, it’s a perfect place to enjoy the variety of colour in autumn.

Ignite at Polesden Lacey, 22 October – 7 November 2021
A new after-dark experience is coming to Polesden Lacey this autumn, and tickets are on sale now. As twilight falls, the IGNITE magic will begin. Expect the unexpected, with glimpses of fairies dancing in lanterns, fiery fish and woodland wildlife sculpted in willow, as you stroll through an enchanting landscape. IGNITE trails are brought to you by Sony Music and hosted by the National Trust. Booking essential.

Autumn Art – families are invited to find the sculptures on the Walnut Lawn, made from chicken wire by a talented sculptor. Enjoy the wonder of collecting your favourite shades of bronze, gold and red leaves and add them to sculptures.
Fungi Foray – follow a self-led walk around the Polesden Lacey Estate. You can download a Mud & Mushrooms activity sheet for families in advance at home, to find mushrooms and toadstools and learn all about them on your way.
Opens daily, 10am to 5pm. Normal admission applies.

Hindhead Commons and the Devil’s Punch Bowl, Surrey

The Golden Valley walk at Hindhead Commons is a 3 mile way-marked loop which takes in the best of the autumn colour at this dramatic Surrey beauty spot.

Walkers love the Devil’s Punch Bowl for its wide vistas and sense of wild openness. In autumn the golden leaves of the beeches, sycamores and oaks are contrasted by dark-green

Scot’s pines. Why not round off your visit with a treat from the Devil’s Punch Bowl café.

Car park opens dawn to dusk, café: 10am to 5pm. Free admission, small charge for parking.

Claremont Landscape Garden, Surrey

Once a favoured royal retreat, Claremont’s sculpted landscape provides a stunning backdrop for a rejuvenating stroll.

Autumn brings beautiful and varied colours to Claremont with spectacular views from all around the lake, from high on Stoney Hill and from Camellia Terrace. Look out for the 300-year-old sweet chestnuts and lime-lined avenues, which light up in yellow. Duck under the canopy of the lakeside tulip tree and you’ll find yourself in a world of bright, beautiful yellow foliage.

Throughout the season, families are invited to enjoy an autumn amble around the gardens and discover new views. Pictures frames hung around the garden will highlight the best seasonal colours and features of the garden.
Opens daily, 10am to 5pm. Normal admission applies.

Hatchlands Park, Surrey
With waymarked walks to suit all abilities, enjoy a leisurely stroll through the parkland at Hatchlands this autumn. Delight in the vibrant red of the native wild service trees and the glorious mass of gold and yellow foliage of the beech woodland.

Hatchlands has many ancient and notable trees including the boundary oak and twisted sweet chestnut. Later in autumn, the majestic oaks in the parkland turn to shades of amber, cinnamon and burnt umber, among swathes of pale gold meadow grass.

October half term autumn tree trail
Bring the kids and follow a trail on chalkboards around the parkland identifying unusual and interesting trees. Celebrate your favourite thing about autumn by adding your thoughts to the Leaf Wall. Pick up a free packet of pumpkin seeds with advice on how to grow them, alongside recipe cards to take home.
Sue Streeter, Gardens and Outdoors Manager at Hatchlands Park says: “One of my favourite trees is the twisted sweet chestnut. It’s easy to spot as it stands on path which crosses the parkland to Great Wix Wood. It has a fine, big, twisted trunk, which is more than 6 metres round. Its leaves are glossy green in spring and summer – and in autumn, rusty brown and ochre. In spring you can spot the sweet chestnut tree by its long catkin-like flowers and in autumn the spikey nut covers that resemble sea urchins with edible nuts inside. This veteran tree provides food and habitat for pollinators, moth larvae, squirrels, birds and mice – and shaded canopy for bluebells.”
Opens daily, 10am to 5pm. Normal admission applies.

River Wey Navigations, Surrey
Take an autumn stroll along the River Wey tow path or bring your camera in search of early morning mists, mushrooms, nuts on the ground and swallows and swifts gathering for migration. Dapdune Wharf and lock houses look picturesque along the river and there is autumn colour in the trees at Bowers lock, Papercourt woodland and Broadoaks Bridge.

Reflections of the leaves in the water make an autumnal towpath walk a thing of beauty. Wherever you walk along the navigations, you’ll feel better for being out in the fresh air.

Wey River Festival, Saturday 18 September, 11am to 8pm, free entry
The Wey River Festival celebrates all that’s great about the National Trust’s wonderful river Wey. On 18 September Dapdune Wharf in Guildford features foodie stalls, kids’ activities, have a go at water fun. Be there for the highlight at dusk – the illuminated pageant with a fanfare of decorated boats travelling from Guildford to the Wharf.

One of most remarkable trees in autumn, along the River Wey, is the old oak at Bowers Lock. It was probably a young sapling when the Navigation was created in 1653. Imagine the stories it could tell. Maybe it was an acorn that ended up in the spoil from the navvies at work?
Dapdune Wharf opens every Thursday to Monday, 11am to 5pm. Closes for winter on 7 November. Entry to Dapdune Wharf is free with a small parking charge for non-members. For boat trips please book tickets in advance at nationaltrust.org.uk/riverway £34 per boat trip for up to 10 people.

Runnymede, Surrey

In autumn at Runnymede, follow the waymarked yellow walking route for the best views of autumn colour from Coopers Hill woodland – and look out for fascinating fungi on the way. This route finishes with a walk along the picturesque River Thames. Don’t forget those welly boots.

Fungi walk – 24 Sept & 23 Oct – join our fungi expert for a walk in Coopers Hill woodland. Learn about all the spooky names for fungi such as dead man’s fingers and witch eggs. £10 per adults £5 per child.
October Half term – hunt for sculptures around Runnymede, made by a community willow artist. Each sculpture is inspired by the wildlife, history and landscape of Runnymede. Part of the Runnymede Explored project, thanks to the National Lottery Heritage Fund.

Sheffield Park and Garden, East Sussex

Enjoy Sheffield Park & Garden as the Autumn colours ignite the trees and cast picture perfect reflections in the lakes. Famous for its autumn colour, this is the season the garden was planted for. Take in the natural beauty as Sheffield Park glows with brilliant displays of reds, oranges, purples and greens.

The dazzling displays of autumn colour are a show-stopper, especially where they are reflected in the historic lakes.

Pick up children’s spotter sheets and spot visitor-created art installations alongside Sheffield Park’s classic autumnal walk.
Gardens and Outdoors Manager Flic Archer says: “Sheffield Park is famous for its collection of nyssa sylvatica. With 400 raised from seed by Arthur Soames between 1910-1924, the garden has the largest collection of nyssa on one site. The reason for the concentrated planting of the species was to recreate ‘the fall’, exhibiting the spectacular autumn colours displayed by the species.”
Autumn is a busy time of year at Sheffield Park, for information on visiting see nationaltrust.org.uk/sheffield-park-and-garden
Opens daily, 10am to 5pm. Normal admission applies.

Nymans, West Sussex

Fiery colours take over in the South African and summer borders in this romantic garden, surrounding the ruins at Nymans. There are uplifting views of the High Weald, from all around the gardens, as the trees in the landscape turn golden and red.

Look out for the red foliage of the American nyssa trees, liquidambers and acers and the bright yellow foliage of the hickories.

Opens daily, 10am to 5pm. Normal admission applies. (4pm closing time after half term)

For families throughout Autumn: find out about the secret life of trees in the Play Glade, a natural play area.
October half term: half-term sees the return of the pop-up pumpkin patch at Nymans, where an array of seasonal games await. Pick up an autumn trail pack and go on a pumpkin hunt around the garden, completing some autumn challenges on the way.
Standen, West Sussex

The arts and crafts garden at Standen has winding walkways, lined with acers, which are enchanting in autumn. The kitchen garden is a particular delight, while the trees in the orchard hang low with seasonal fruits. The Barn café has delicious treats, made from seasonal produce from the garden.

On the wider estate, you can crunch through autumn leaves on the easy-to-follow way-marked trails.

The Joy is in the Making exhibition continues in the house at Standen until the end of October. Discover installations created by celebrities exploring the wellbeing benefits of hand making, and why the Arts & Crafts are relevant today. Be inspired by the process of pottery by Keith Brymer Jones, the intricate detail of cross stitch by Mr X Stitch, the beauty of embroidery from Niamh Wimperis, Kaffe Fassett’s colourful designs and Edith Bowman’s joyful photographs.
Standen’s Traditional Craft Fair returns 18 & 19 September, 10am – 4pm. See exhibitors keeping traditional skills alive with demonstrations and selling stalls.
Apple Day, 25 October
Celebrate Apple Day at Standen in the kitchen garden. Enjoy tastings and discover some of the history around the Standen orchard. Then look out for Apple Taster Days and Dyeing Days – every Saturday throughout September in the Kitchen Garden – See the fruits of the Kitchen Garden’s harvest this autumn with tastings and demonstrations of how to naturally dye wool.

Pumpkin Rescue trail for families, 1 October to 14 November
Follow the clues around the Kitchen Garden to discover how you can make more than just a scary face out of your pumpkin. During October half term look out for displays of crocheted pumpkins all around the garden – and take part in the harvest and senses trail for families.

Opens daily, 10am to 5pm. Normal admission applies.

Petworth House and Park, West Sussex

Petworth House and Park has so many veteran trees that it has its own downloadable Ancient Trees walk, dotted with sumptuous autumn colour from magnificent oaks, limes, beeches and chestnuts.

The Capability Brown parkland is transformed with swathes of pale golden grasses. Don’t miss the views of the lakes and mansion in the soft autumn light.

Gardens and Outdoors Manager Martyn Burkinshaw says: “One ancient tree in Petworth Park is estimated to be around 940 years old, so a sapling around the time of the Norman invasion. The oak tree has survived all the landscape changes since the 12th century. It now has hollies growing from decomposing wood in its cavities. This tree has been here since before the park itself and has now been captured in a detailed drawing by Richard Geraint Evans which will feature in the exhibition room at Petworth during autumn as part of his GPS Trees exhibition.” The Petworth ‘GPS Trees’ exhibition runs from Mon 11 Oct to Sun 5 Dec.
Discover a variety of fascinating fungi species in the park. The area is a waxcap fungi meadow, as the grass is kept short by the nibbling from the resident herd of deer. Species to be seen include fly agaric, parrot, parasol and scarlet waxcap. The fungi in the park shouldn’t be picked.
Deer rut guided walks, Mon 18, Wed 20, Fri 22, Mon 25, Wed 27 & Fri 29 October, 10.30am-12.30pm
Autumn is the time of year when the fallow deer rut in the park. You can join a two-hour guided walk to learn more about this species, what the rut is all about and observe seasonal behaviour, with the chance of watching rutting stags. We recommend bringing binoculars, and there will be an element of hiding and remaining silent. Walks are £5 per person, children free. Booking essential on 01798 342207.

Opens daily, 10am to 5pm. Normal admission applies.